Indeed, Virginia is split fairly dramatically when it comes to Republican and Democratic voters regionally, with the vast part of rural regions supporting Republicans and the northern, more populous part of the state voting for Democrats.
Cuccinelli signs campaign material for a supporter at a rally on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013, in Roanoke, Va. (Rebekah Metzler for USNWR)
Virginia also has had a tendency in recent history to elect a governor of the opposite party of the president and has endured as one of the closest swing states in presidential elections, but a win by McAuliffe would inch the purple state into a deeper shade of blue. Obama became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win in Virginia since 1964, defeating Republican nominee John McCain by 6 points in 2008, a margin that slipped to 4 percent when he won again in 2012.
Gubernatorial races have also tended to be razor close, with the 2009 election of Republican Bob McDonnell by 18 points serving as the exception. In 2005, Democrat Tim Kaine won by 6 points and in 2001, Democrat Mark Warner won by 5 points. A key factor in the 2013 race is Libertarian Party candidate Robert Sarvis.
"The fact that Sarvis continues to poll around 10 percent, coupled with the fact that his supporters are becoming as firm in their decision as the McAuliffe and Cuccinelli voters, suggests that he is not going to fade late in this election," said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center for Public Policy in a memo accompanying a poll released Friday. "Sarvis' presence in the race is clearly shaking things up as we move toward Election Day."
Conventional wisdom has been that Cuccinelli's greatest strength is the intensity of his voting base, marking him as a potential upset candidate if turnout overall is low in the off-year election. But Democrats want to leave nothing to chance, despite McAuliffe's apparent polling edge.
Obama capped off his speech Sunday urging voters to be sure and head to the polls.
"Nothing makes me more nervous than when my supporters start feeling too confident, so I want to put the fear of God in all of you," he said. "Virginia, historically, has always been a swing state and this race will be close, because past races in Virginia have always been close. The question is going to be whether or not you are willing to out-work the other side."